Erie Avenue impacted by fires throughout community's history
In addition to new development, the downtown area has also been altered by fires throughout the community's history. Local historian Ray Beimel discussed several of the more prominent fires that impacted the Erie Avenue area during a recent presentation at the St. Marys Senior Center. The earliest fire detailed by Beimel during his presentation occurred on the afternoon of July 25, 1880. According to Beimel, the fire began in the apartment located above the Coryell and Russ' store, which he indicated was located where Dr. Jolly's office is today. "The store clerk [at the Coryell and Russ' store] was a bright young man, well-thought-of in town, and he lived above the store and he happened to be suffering from an ingrown toenail. He had a little lamp, and so he was going to heat some salve to alleviate the pain of his ingrown toenail. Well, he knocked it over," Beimel said. "But, being a quick-thinking lad, he thought, 'I'll save this situation. I'll just throw the thing out the window.' The problem was he missed, and the whole center of town burned down." Elaborating on the extent of the damage caused by the fire, Beimel explained that everything "from Washington Street to the Elk Creek and from the Diamond to the Tierney House burned down because of that clumsy store clerk."Historian Charlie Schaut also discussed this blaze in "History of St. Marys: The Formative Years," which was published in 1968. In his book, Schaut reported that "a hand pumper brought in from the Summit Mill operation of Andrew Kaul was brought in to help fight the flames, but too late to do any good to anything on the north of the railroad; however, some of the buildings were saved, including the John Krug and Sorg buildings, as water could be pumped from the creek to reach the properties." Beimel noted that the Tierney residence on Erie Avenue not only survived the fire of 1880, but also made it through another fire in that area in 1910. During his presentation, he showed attendees an old photograph of the residence."This is one of the pictures Charlie Schaut showed me when I was a fifth grader, and it was one of the pictures that got me interested in St. Marys' history," Beimel said. The next major fire Beimel mentioned occurred on Dec. 8, 1910.